Just when the city locks down, a new restaurant pops up: Tripleta, a new Puerto Rican pop-up, is swinging through the former Al’s Deli location for the month of December. Continuing the great sandwich streak of 2020, that means triple-stuffed sandwiches are landing pillowy soft in the Mission. This is meaty news.
Lauded chef Aaron London opened a colorful, fast-casual restaurant at this location in 2019, but despite the falafel dogs and flamingo wallpaper, AL’s Deli closed after less than a year, only a few days before March’s shelter-in-place shut down the city. He’s been paying the full rent on the space ever since, while it stood empty for months — and now, with SF’s new stay-at-home order in place, his Michelin-starred restaurant AL’s Place is also temporarily shuttered. That’s freed London up to join a former employee and his brother in the Deli kitchen: José Rigau was the general manager of Al’s Deli, and Juan Felipe Rigau was a sous chef at Spruce and Sons & Daughters.
The trio are partnering on a pop-up called Tripleta, after “an iconic sandwich,” José Rigau says. “It’s part of the nightlife in Puerto Rico. … It comes from hole-in-the-wall spots and food trucks, and after hanging out, you get this greasy and decadent kind of sandwich.” He explains that it’s a triple smash of chicken, beef, and ham, spread with a “garlicky mayo-ketchup,” on pan sobao.
“It’s a very pillowy type of bread, so you have the saltiness of the meat, and the sweetness and softness of the bread.” Shredded lettuce and tomato add moisture, and potato sticks add crunch (in this instance, potato chips). The brothers maintain the best way to eat this is at 2 a.m. with Reggaeton blasting from a tent, the way they did growing up in San Juan, but it’s also satisfying for lunch.
The full menu — which the Rigaus developed with London — also includes other sandwiches, such as the maybe more familiar cubano, as well as platos, antojos, and sweets. José is particularly proud of his brother’s arroz mamposteao, made from day-old rice and beans and sautéed and brightened with sofrito, and they slid in their grandmother’s flan for dessert. They are missing pasteles, the labor-intensive holiday favorite, but if all goes well, maybe next year. Check out the full menu, below.
Tripleta is starting with takeout and delivery only, and exclusively online orders, through the restaurant’s website and a couple of apps, so don’t try to walk up. The graffitied boards are staying up on the hot pink windows for now — the team is only prying open the door for the month. But they are hoping Tripleta will continue in some form. The Rigaus’ long-term goal is to open an affordable sit-down Puerto Rican restaurant in San Francisco.
“We love the SF food scene, however, we feel that it underrepresents a lot of categories,” says José. “Go to New York or LA, and there’s an amazing array of cultures and foods. SF has taquerias and very expensive places, jumping from one side of the spectrum to the other, but there’s a whole gap of restaurants that are not represented…. We want to make food that is lively and bright, made for everyday people, and get creative with it … [and we hope that] people enjoy the comfort levels of it.”
Tripleta opens this Thursday, December 10, and hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Order online through the restaurant’s website for takeout, or through Caviar or DoorDash for delivery.